Central questions in the neurobiology of learning and memory are where and how experience modifies the brain to alter behavior. Recently we have described a physiological phenomenon in head-fixed awake mice termed stimulus-selective response potentiation (SRP), in which responsiveness of primary visual cortex is markedly enhanced as a result of repeated exposure to specific visual stimuli. This robust form of plasticity is induced and expressed in the adult primary visual cortex and displays many of the features that are characteristic of perceptual learning. The primary aims of this research are to;a) to determine the behavioral significance of SRP using two novel behavioral assays;b) determine how SRP is expressed at the cellular level within visual cortex and;c) pinpoint the synapses that are modified. Beyond the relevance of our proposed research to identifying the mechanisms underlying perceptual learning and/or visual recognition memory, they will broaden our understanding of how primary sensory areas are modified by sensory experience in order to modify behavior, which remains one of the great challenges in basic neuroscience.
Understanding how the brain encodes sensory information to form perceptions and memories remains one of the greatest challenges in the field of neuroscience. The goal of this research project is to characterize the molecular, cellular and network mechanisms which serve these functions in visual cortex. Identifying these mechanisms will advance not only our understanding of normal brain function, but also those disorders where perception, learning and memory are disrupted.
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